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EXPLAINED: Is the coronavirus situation in Germany improving?

How many active Covid-19 cases are there and what's the daily infection count? What about the intensive care bed situation? We take a look at the current picture.

EXPLAINED: Is the coronavirus situation in Germany improving?
People in Frankfurt, Hesse earlier this week. Photo: DPA

Germany is currently in the middle of a partial shutdown aimed at stemming the spread of coronavirus. Is it working? Here's what you need to know about the situation this week.

1. Positive signs – but numbers still too high

On Thursday November 19th, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) reported 22,609 new infections in 24 hours. RKI head Lothar Wieler said the numbers had “stabilised at a high level” but were still “too high“.

On Wednesday the RKI reported a total of 17,561 new Covid-19 infections, almost 1,000 less than on Wednesday of the previous week (18,487). There was a peak last Friday when 23,542 infections were reported.

On Monday and Tuesday this week, new infections were also below the values of the previous week. However, it remains to be seen whether a decreasing trend will now be seen.

Chancellor Angela Merkel pointed out on Monday that Germany had managed to “break the dynamic of new infections” after restaurants, leisure facilities and cultural sites were ordered to close from the start of November.

“We still have a long way to go but the good news is that we have halted the exponential growth for now,” Merkel said.

In total, 833,307 people have been infected with Sars-CoV-2 since the beginning of the pandemic in Germany.


2. What about deaths, recoveries and active cases?

A total of 13,370 people have died in connection with Covid-19 so far in Germany (as of November 19th).

The RKI said on Thursday 251 deaths were reported within the last 24 hours. Health experts say the number of deaths has been increasing since the beginning of September (and at a faster rate from October), likely because more older people have been contracting Covid-19.

According to the RKI around 562,700 people are considered to have recovered.

The number of active cases on Tuesday evening was 272,700 – that is about 800 less than the previous day when it was 273,600, according to the RKI situation report. This is an encouraging sign.

3. Which places in Germany are most affected?

According to the RKI, the 7-day incidence rate on Wednesday for Germany was 138.9, which was lower than the previous day (141.4).

Politicians and experts say they want to get that number down to an average of 50 coronavirus cases per 100,000 residents in seven days. At this level, health authorities can track and trace infection chains.

Coronavirus cases are currently highest in the places detailed on the DPA map below. The worst affected areas are coloured purple and dark red.

The highest value is in Berlin Mitte with an average of 367.8 cases per 100,000 residents in the last seven days. Berlin as a whole has a value of 214.1.

On Tuesday evening, 406 of the 412 regions in Germany covered by the RKI also showed an increased incidence of at least 25 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. Meanwhile, 20 districts are above the level of 250 cases per 100,000 inhabitants.

The states of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Schleswig-Holstein are currently the least affected by the virus.

The graphic in the below tweet by Zeit Online gives an idea of how the coronavirus pandemic has progressed throughout the year.

4. Reproductive number falling

The RKI reported the reproductive value or R number on Tuesday night as 1.0.

It has decreased compared to the previous day when it was 1.12. The 7-day R rate remains unchanged compared to the previous day and is still at 0.97.

The fact that both R-values have fallen to values around and below 1 is a good sign. It means that an infected person usually infects a maximum of one other person with Sars-CoV-2. However, experts want this number to be significantly lower. According to experts, an R value of 0.7 or lower would be ideal to get the infection situation under control.

5. What's the situation in intensive care units?

There are concerns about the rising number of Covid-19 patients.

According to the the German Interdisciplinary Association for Intensive and Emergency Medicine (DIVI) Register, 3,542 Covid-19 patients were in German intensive care units on Wednesday morning.

This is 24 more than on Tuesday morning (3,518). A total of 2,034 patients are using ventilators, the day before it was 2,011.

READ ALSO: How serious is the situation in Germany's hospitals?

The RKI said in its report that “the number of Covid-19 patients requiring intensive care has strongly increased, from 655 patients on October 15th to 3,517 patients on November 17th”.

On October 26th 1,362 coronavirus patients were receiving medical treatment in ICU, with 46 percent receiving ventilation.

About two weeks later on the report for November 10th there were 3,127 registered coronavirus patients in intensive care, with around 56 percent receiving (1,737) ventilation.

A total of 21,935 of 28,347 intensive care beds in Germany are currently occupied. Meanwhile, 12,069 ICU beds can be made operational within seven days as emergency reserves.

Member comments

  1. With these demonstrations…expect another spike!

    The real issue is hospital beds. If the system can’t care for all the sick people, some will be on the streets or dying at home. This is why the rules are needed.

    Wear a Mask!
    Wash your Hands!
    Keep your Distance!

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Pandemic in Germany unlikely to end this year, says top virologist

High profile German virologist Christian Drosten believes Germany will see a severe spike in Covid infections after summer, and that the pandemic will not become endemic this year.

Pandemic in Germany unlikely to end this year, says top virologist

Drosten previously said that Germany would probably be able to declare the end of the pandemic this year.

But in an interview with Spiegel, Drosten said he had reevaluated his opinion. 

“When the Alpha variant came, it was very surprising for me. When Delta appeared I was sceptical at first, then with Omicron we had to reorient ourselves again. And since January there have already been new Omicron subtypes.

“So I would actually like to correct myself: I no longer believe that by the end of the year we will have the impression that the pandemic is over.”

READ ALSO: End is in sight for pandemic in Germany, says virologist 

Drosten also said that Germany will not see a largely Covid-free summer, which has been the case in previous years, and a further increase in infections in autumn. 

“We are actually already seeing an exponential increase in case numbers again,” Drosten said.

“The BA.5 variant (of Omicron) is simply very transmissible, and people are losing their transmission protection from the last vaccination at the same time.”

In other countries, he said, when the number of cases become high, hospitalisation and death rates also rise again. “Unfortunately, that will also be the case here,” said Drosten, but added: “Overall, however, far fewer people will become seriously ill and die than in 2021.”

Drosten said he expected many more infections from September.

“I hope that the school holidays will dampen the increase in cases somewhat. But from September, I fear we will have very high case numbers,” the head of the virology department at Berlin’s Charité hospital told Spiegel.

READ ALSO: German Health Minister lays out autumn Covid plan

Virologist Christian Drosten at a Covid press conference in 2021.

Virologist Christian Drosten at a Covid press conference in 2021. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Kay Nietfeld

If the government does not take any action, he predicted there would be a lot of sick leave across all industries. “That will become a real problem,” he said.

Drosten said he did not expect overcrowded intensive care units in Germany.

But the new BA.5 sub-variant, which is becoming dominant in Germany, may affect people more strongly. 

“The wheel is turning more towards disease again,” said Drosten. It is not true that a virus automatically becomes more and more harmless in the course of evolution. “That makes me even more worried about the autumn,” he said.

Drosten recommends wearing masks indoors during the colder months, saying it is “the least painful” measure.

If, in addition, “up to 40 million people could be immunised or given a booster vaccination” before winter, for example by urgently calling for company vaccinations, that would “really make a difference”, Drosten said.

In the long term, he said it’s inevitable that people will become infected with coronavirus.

He said the population immunity due to vaccinations and infections will at some point be so strong that the virus will become less important. “Then we will be in an endemic state,” said Drosten. In the worst case, however, this could take “several more winters”.

However, Drosten warned against people trying to deliberately infect themselves with Covid, saying getting the infection in summer doesn’t mean people will be protected in winter. 

Drosten himself said he has not yet contracted Covid-19.

“So far, I guess I’ve just been lucky,” he said. “I rarely put myself in risky situations, but I’m not overly cautious either.”

‘Pandemic depends on behaviour’

According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI)’s latest weekly report, more outbreaks are occurring in care homes, and the number of patients in intensive care units is slightly rising as infections go up. 

The institute said there had been a 23 percent increase in the 7-day incidence compared to the previous week. On Friday the 7-day incidence stood at 618.2 infections per 100,000 people. There were 108,190 infections within the latest 24 hour period and 90 deaths. 

“The further course of the pandemic depends not only on the occurrence of new virus variants and the uptake of vaccinations on offer, it also depends to a large extent on the behaviour of the population,” said the RKI.

According to the DIVI intensive care register, the number of Covid-19 patients in ICUs had increased to 810 on Thursday this week, from about 600 at the beginning of the month.

However, that number is still low compared to previous Covid peaks when thousands of people were in intensive care in Germany.